China extended power curbs in its scorched southwestern regions as the worst heatwave since 1961 triggers surging demand for electricity exactly as a prolonged drought undermines the output of hydropower.
The National Meteorological Centre said as many as 62 weather stations, from Sichuan to Fujian on the southeastern coast, reported record temperatures on Sunday.
State weather forecasters issued a heat “red alert” for the 11th consecutive day on Monday, as extreme weather continues to play havoc with power supplies and damage crops. They also raised the national drought alert to “orange” – the second-highest level.
The drought has already “severely affected” mid-season rice and summer corn in some southern regions, agriculture officials said on Sunday.
But there is hope the situation could improve from Wednesday as a cold front moves into China via Xinjiang.
Mall Hours Cut in Chongqing
The region of Chongqing, where temperatures hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) late last week, announced that opening hours at more than 500 malls and other commercial venues would be shortened from Monday to ease power demand.
The measures mean dozens of shopping malls in districts across the city must adjust their business hours to 4pm-9pm (0800-1300 GMT) to “ensure the safe and orderly supply of power and ensure the basic needs of the masses”, the Chongqing Economic And Information Commission said.
Two malls on the list contacted on Monday confirmed that they had received the government notice and would abide by the new opening hours. Two hotels on the list said they were still operating normally but were restricting air conditioner use.
The measures will continue until further word from the authorities based on the temperature and supply and demand situation, the notice said.
Factories Without Power Till Thursday
Provincial officials in Sichuan, a major hydropower generator, also extended existing curbs on industrial power consumers until Thursday August 25, financial news service Caixin said on Sunday. Power generation in Sichuan is at just half the normal level.
They said firms in the battery industry as saying that industrial power users in the cities of Yibin and Suining had been told to remain closed until Thursday.
A Sichuan-based pesticide producer, Lier Chemical Co Ltd, confirmed in a notice on Monday that output restrictions at two of its production bases in the province would continue until August 25.
Several plants in Sichuan and Chongqing, including those of top battery maker CATL and the electric vehicle giant BYD, have been only able to partially operate in recent weeks because of power shortages.
JinkoSolar Holding’s Sichuan manufacturing facilities have also been halted temporarily by the power rationing measures, the company said on Monday.
Industry sources said the situation remained fluid and they had yet to see any substantial impact on the auto supply chain, though there was some concern over how the heatwave was affecting sales.
Shanghai, which was criticised on China’s Twitter-like Weibo service for its use of electricity generated in Sichuan, imposed its own consumption restrictions on Monday, turning off decorative lighting on the riverside Bund area and parts of the financial centre of Lujiazui for two days.
Firms will be encouraged to “stagger” power consumption to reduce peak loads. Some outdoor construction projects will be suspended, the official Shanghai Daily said.
Important agricultural regions have also been warning of the impact on crops, with Henan province saying more than a million hectares of land have been affected by drought so far.
About 2.2 million hectares across the Yangtze basin have been affected, according to the Ministry of Water Resources.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard